Brooding is defined as the management of chicks from one day old to about 8 weeks of age, and it involves the provision of heat and other necessary care during chicks’ early growing period.
Brooding units are designed to house chicks from one day old until they no longer need supplementary heat (0-8 weeks).
Growing pens are used from the end of the brooding period until the broilers are sold or the pullets moved into permanent laying houses (up to 20 weeks).
Laying pens or cages are used for pullets and hens from the time they start laying until they are culled and sold at the end of the laying period (up to 78 weeks).
Chicks brooders, also called brooder houses, are typically wood-framed, wood-floored, movable structures heated by electric or oil-fired stoves and built on skids. The chicks are housed until they are about six weeks old, when they no longer need heat.
Commercial brooder houses may be very large, having several brooder units, underfloor heat or heat lamps, fan ventilation, automatic waterers and feeders, and large doors through which tractors and litter-removing equipment can pass.
Baby chicks are really quite easy to raise. With a few pieces of equipment and a small place to put them, success in brooding and rearing is virtually assured.
During this period of the bird’s life, the most important needs are for warmth, protection, feed, and water. When growing chicks of any species-chickens, turkeys, pheasants, or almost any other production bird-each of these aspects must be considered.
Preparing a Brooder House and Rearing of Chicks
Below are some of the methods of preparing a brooder house and rearing of chicks:
1st Operation: Chicks will start the first part of their lives in the brooder house and at this stage, you must bear in mind that chicks have to start their lives well to avoid possible loss in the future. The brooder houses as earlier mentioned, could be back of the house, vacant rooms or any suitable open high land.
You should make sure that damp or un-drained land is avoided to prevent soldier ants and diseases from attacking chicks in the nearest future.
You should also make sure that the houses are well constructed as in the diagram below:
2nd Operation: on getting to the brooder house, the first thing you should do is to dip your feet in the pit provided outside the entrance of the poultry house to disinfect your feet not to carry germs into the house.
After entering the house, you will search for the sick or dead chicks and bring them out. Collect the drinkers to be washed outside, water fill them and return them to the brooder house.
Before serving the water, be sure that feeders are filled with feed-mash and the electric bulbs inside the brooder house are brought lower to the ground but not to touch the chicks because it makes the chicks warm all the time.
The windows or net of the brooder house must be covered with mat or nylon to provide heat for the chicks.
3rd Operation: if the brooder house is not new but has been used, you should make sure that you brush off the cobwebs hanging here and there. Remove the old litter, sweep the concrete floor thoroughly and wash every corner of the house.
All the holes should be blocked against rats and the house should be disinfected with either “Izal, Dettol or any other disinfectant. The washed house should be left open for 2 days to dry if found necessary and thereafter, the floor can be filled with new dried litter preferably 2-3 inches above the floor.
With less than 24 hours to the arrival of the chicks, the brooder house must be checked properly and kept warm with provisions of either electricity, gas, stove, coal pot etc. installation of brooder guards to confide chicks, flat feeders, water drinkers and feed-mash must be available before their arrival while the windows or net of the brooder house must be covered with mat or nylon to provide heat for the chicks.
On the first day of the chicks arrival, you should put on light in the house and make sure you provide feed-mash on egg trays for the first 4days of their arrival.
For proper purified water, you are advised to purchase Terramycin soluble powder and measure 2 teaspoon of he soluble powder into a gallon of water and give to the chicks to avoid stress problems.
Types of Brooding
- Natural brooding
- Artificial brooding
(1) Natural Brooding
The natural method of brooding is used on farms where only a few chickens are raised each year. Depending on her size, a hen will brood 15-20 chickens.
The broody hen will provide all the warmth required by the chicks. Before placing the chicks with the hen she would be examined for her good health and free from lice, tick and other ectoparasites.
(2) Artificial Brooding
Artificial brooding can be defined as the handling of newly born chicks without the aid of hens. It is accomplished by means of a temperature-controlled brooder (foster mother). Artificial brooding has several advantages over the natural method, which are:
- Chicks may be reared at any time of the seasons.
- Thousands of chicks may be brooded by a single person.
- Sanitary conditions may be controlled.
- The temperature may be regulated.
- Feeding may be undertaken according to the plan.
A typical brooding house
The essentials of a good brooder are a dependable mechanism for controlling temperature and regular supply of fresh air, dryness, adequate light, space, easy disinfection, protection against chick enemies, safety from fire, and economic in construction.
Management of Chicks in the Brooder
- Adjust the temperature as per the requirement of the chicks. In the case of oil heating, see that there is no defect in the stove or lamp. Chicks should not have access to the heated parts of the lamp at any cost.
- Avoid a damp poultry house. You can use a deep litter system.
- Discourage litter eating by the chicks, scatter mash over egg case flats when the chicks are first taken out of their boxes.
- Provide balanced standard mash.
- Keep provision for the entrance of fresh air.
- Provide clean, fresh water in front of the birds at least twice daily.
- Chicks, after 3 weeks old may be provided chopped green grasses (to increase Vitamin A intake)
- Clean the brooders including feed hoppers daily.
- Follow a regular vaccination program.
- Avoid overcrowding as this will lead to slow growth and mortality.
- Keep the brooder in such a place that cold wind and rain does not get in.
- Daily inspect the condition of birds and their faces for any sort of abnormality.
- Keep in touch with any veterinarian for help at the time of need.
- It is always advisable to check the fittings, temperature control, feed, and water trough arrangement before shifting the chicks in the brooder.
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